NASCAR Cup Series

Bubba Wallace suspended for Homestead after Larson incident

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Credit: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Bubba Wallace has been suspended for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway as punishment for wrecking Kyle Larson during the most recent race in Las Vegas.

Wallace, fresh off winning Stage #1, was battling Larson on lap 95 when the latter slid up the track and squeezed him into the wall. In retaliation, he hooked Larson’s right-rear quarter panel and spun him into the wall, during which he took out Wallace’s Toyota ally and playoff driver Christopher Bell. Upon exiting his car, Wallace confronted Larson with multiple shoves that Larson did not return.

The wreck was deemed intentional and therefore a violation of Sections 4.3.A and 4.4.C and E of the rulebook. Wallace initially defended the incident as a steering failure, but apologised on social media on Monday the day before the suspension was doled out.

“I want to apologize for my actions on Sunday following the on-track incident with Kyle Larson and the No. 5 car,” begins a statement he posted on Monday. “My behavior does not align with the core values that are shared by 23XI Racing and our partners, who have played a crucial role in my incredible journey to the top of this great sport.

“I want to apologize to NASCAR and the fans, along with Christopher Bell. Joe Gibbs Racing, and Toyota for putting them in a situation in the Playoffs that they do not deserve.

“I compete with immense passion, and with passion at times comes frustration. Upon reflecting, I should have represented our partners and core team values better than I did by letting my frustrations follow me outside of the car. You live and learn, and I intend to learn from this.”

Wallace is the first Cup driver suspended for an on-track wreck since Matt Kenseth intentionally took out Joey Logano at the 2015 fall Martinsville race; Kenseth received a stiffer suspension of three races.

John Hunter Nemechek will replace Wallace in the #45 23XI Racing Toyota. It will mark Nemechek’s first Cup race since his lone full season in 2020 with Front Row Motorsports before joining Toyota in the Camping World Truck Series. With Ty Gibbs in the #23 as an injury substitute for Kurt Busch, 23XI will have the rather dubious honour of both cars featuring backups in place of their full-time drivers; perhaps the most notable prior example of this is Richard Childress Racing in 2001 when they began the year with Dale Earnhardt and Mike Skinner but finished with Kevin Harvick and Robby Gordon.

“23XI is aligned with NASCAR on the one-race suspension issued to Bubba and we understand the need for the series to take a clear stand on the incidents that took place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway,” said the team. “Bubba’s actions are not in keeping with the values of our team and partners. We have spoken to Bubba and expressed our disapproval of how he handled the situation. Bubba has made impressive strides this season and this experience is an opportunity for him to further learn and grow as a competitor in NASCAR.

“As a result of the penalty, John Hunter Nemechek will drive the No. 45 Toyota this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.”

Wallace was not the only figure suspended on Tuesday as Bell’s team-mate Kyle Busch loses his crew chief Ben Beshore, jackman Derrell Edwards, and tyre changer Michael Hicks for four races after Busch’s left-front wheel came off under caution. This effectively ends the crewmen’s working relationship with Busch as there are three races remaining in 2022, meaning their suspensions carry over into 2023 when Busch moves to RCR. Xfinity Series team Jeremy Clements Racing received an L1-level penalty for an illegal composite body modification, resulting in forty points being docked and crew chief Mark Setzer being sidelined for Homestead; it is JCR’s second major penalty after an L2 infraction at Daytona, which was eventually dropped after appeal.

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